Artículo Definido - Definite Article
In English there one definite article:
In Spanish there are four definite articles:
|el||Singular (male)||the bank||el banco|
|la||Singular (female)||the house||la casa|
|los||Plural (male)||the banks||los bancos|
|las||Plural (female)||the houses||the houses|
In Spanish the definite article must agree with the gender and number of the noun.
The definite article indicates a specific noun.
¿Dónde está el libro? - Where is the book?
Las chicas quieren comer - The girls want to eat.
When not to use the definite article even though it is used in English:
- Before ordinal numbers for names of rulers and similar people. Luis octavo (Luis the Eighth), Carlos quinto (Carlos the Fifth).
- In certain set phrases that don't follow any particular pattern. Examples: En largo plazo (in the long run), en alta mar (on the high seas).
When to use the definite article in Spanish, but do you do not use it in English:
Days of the week: Days of the week typically are preceded by either el or los, depending on whether the day is singular or plural (the names of the weekdays don't change in the plural form). Voy a la tienda el viernes. (I'm going to the store on Thursday.) Voy a la tienda los viernes. (I go to the store on Thursdays.) The article isn't used following a form of the verb ser to indicate which day of the week it is. Hoy es lunes. (Today is Monday.)
Seasons of the year: Prefiero los inviernos. (I prefer winters.)
With more than one noun: In English, we can often omit the "the" when using two or more nouns joined by "and" or "or," as the article is understood to apply to both. That's not so in Spanish. El hermano y la hermana están tristes. (The brother and sister are sad.) Vendemos la casa y la silla. (We're selling the house and chair.)
With infinitives (verbs) used as subjects: El entender is difícil. (Understanding is difficult.) El fumar está prohibido. (Smoking is prohibited.)
Before names of streets: Streets, avenues, plazas and similar places are usually preceded by the article. La Casa Blanca está en la avenida Pennsylvania. (The White House is on Pennsylvania Avenue.)
While most nouns in Spanish that end in "o" take the masculine article "el" or "los" and most nouns in Spanish that end in "a" take the feminine article "la" or "las" there are a few notable exceptions:
el mapa (the map)
la radio (the radio)
la mano (the hand)
la foto (the photo)
Also if a noun begins with a stressed "a" or "ha" you always use "el" even if it is a feminine noun.
el agua (the water)
el haba (the bean)
The reason for doing this is to make pronunciation easier. Using "la" would require you to have two letter "a", which would make it sound like you were saying "laa". Remember you do not pronounce the letter "h" in the beginning of a word, which is why you would face the same problem. However the plural uses the feminine article.
las aguas (the waters)
In this case there is no pronunciation difficulty.
Words that do not begin with a stressed "a" or "ha" use the feminine article.
la ardilla (the squirrel)
la hamaca (the hammock)